Rhapsody Of Fire hold a special position in the exciting and multi-faceted world of heavy metal. Like few other acts, the band from Italy stands for anthemic symphonic metal presented with lots of speed, great pathos and technical refinement. Another characteristic that the band’s fans love is that at the beginning of their career in particular (at the time still under the shorter moniker of Rhapsody), their songs presented a mythical, album-transcending saga. Who doesn’t like to recall classics such as Legendary Tales (1992), Symphony Of Enchanted Lands (1998) or Dawn Of Victory (2000)? Rhapsody Of Fire have now returned to the very strengths of those albums.
Their latest studio recording The Eighth Mountain, scheduled for release on AFM/Soulfood on 22 February 2019, combines spirited songs and epic chorus parts with lavish orchestra arrangements. At the same time, the album marks the beginning of a new, exciting saga that’s typical of this band. For all those who would like to find out more, here are the details!
First of all, there’s been an important personnel change. Vocalist Giacomo Voli has been at the group’s musical helm for the last three years, who has not only accepted the powerful heritage, he has also brought fresh momentum to the Rhapsody Of Fire fold. Voli‘s broader range and vocal power impresses keyboardist Alex Staropoli, Rhapsody Of Fire’s founder and main songwriter. “Giacomo is like a breath of fresh air for the group and his expressive voice has been a great inspiration to my compositions. That’s one of the reasons why our songwriting sounds more positive again. A number of passages on Dark Wings Of Steel seemed too sad and minor-oriented to me in retrospect. The Eighth Mountain, on the other hand, features much more optimistic major-key atmospheres.”
To dress the new material, adding inappropriately lavish sounds to suit its extravagant songwriting, Rhapsody Of Fire have worked with a major orchestra again. This time the musicians of the acclaimed Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra in Sofia, renowned for their contribution to more than 600 movie soundtracks, were instrumental in recording The Eighth Mountain’s sublime, atmospherically dense overall sound. Two choirs featuring more than 20 vocalists, as well as a number of soloists playing medieval instruments, also deserve to be mentioned. The album was mixed and mastered by Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann (Orden Ogan), an acknowledged expert of haunting sounds.
The lyrical content of The Eighth Mountain marks the beginning of a new story, developed by Roby De Micheli and Alex Staropoli under the title of the ‘Nephlins Empire Saga’ which is based on those fascinating fantasy elements (including the narration courtesy of prestigious British Dracula actor Christopher Lee on the final song “Tales Of A Hero’s Fate”) that Rhapsody Of Fire are renowned for, in this instance – roughly speaking – lost, corrupted souls. “People will find out more details of the saga when they listen to the lyrics,” says Staropoli, not wanting to give away all the album’s secrets. Just this much, “It’s about which path in life you choose. The story may be fictitious but quite obviously relates to reality the way we experience it every day.”
Last but not least, this superb release is enhanced by the fascinating cover artwork courtesy of Alex Charleux, with whom Rhapsody Of Fire have already collaborated on their compilation Legendary Years (2017). Staropoli: “The artwork is really breathtaking and has an incredibly impressive effect, particularly the vinyl version. It would be impossible to illustrate the new saga better than on this cover.” It would also be impossible to present the new album live much sooner than on the band’s upcoming European tour, scheduled to kick off one day before the album arrives at the physical and digital stores.